A Great Military Strategist…On Paper


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During the Warring States Period in China’s history, the Country of Zhao had a famous general named Zhao She (赵奢). Zhao She once defeated an invasion from the Country of Qin despite having a much smaller army. As a result of his accomplishments, King Zhao promoted him to a High Officer position.


Zhao She had a son named Zhao Kuo (赵括), who from a very young age loved reading books on military affairs and strategy. He could recite military books by heart, and when discussing warfare with others, he was able to win debates even against his father. Hence, Zhao Kuo became increasingly arrogant.


Zhao She become worried about his son because he knew that his son’s knowledge was just that: knowledge. Sure, he was great at theorizing on paper, but he lacked practical experience, so he should not be so confident. Zhao She even said, “In the future, our country must not use him as our general, for if he was put in charge, he would surely lead our army to defeat.”


In 259 BC, the Country of Qin led another invasion on the Country of Zhao. At that time, Zhao She had already passed away, and Lian Po (廉颇) was in charge of commanding the Zhao army. Though Lian Po was old, he was a wise and experienced general. Under his leadership, the Qin army had no way of victory.


The country of Qin knew that time was running out for their army, but they had heard rumours about Zhao Kuo’s arrogance and lack of real battle field experience. Hence, they sent people to the country of Zhao to spread rumors that “Qin’s General is most afraid of Zhao She’s son, Zhao Kuo.”


These rumors soon reached King Zhao, who was deceived into believing them. King Zhao then ordered for Zhao Kuo to replace Lian Po in leading the country’s army. Zhao Kuo was still very arrogant in his abilities, and he decided to completely change the combat plan from Lian Po. As a result, over 400,000 of his soldiers were wiped out, and Zhao Kuo himself was killed by Qin’s general.

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